Starting Young: Children and Mobile Devices

In the last several years or so, you’ve probably noticed a significant increase in the number of people staring at smartphones. This trend isn’t just limited to adults, as children can increasingly be found staring at such devices. Believe it or not, recent research suggests that children may start using these items as early as infancy.

Media and Guidelines

This report comes courtesy of National Institutes of Health, the University at Albany and the New York University Langone Medical Center. Contributors from these three institutions relied on data from the Upstate KIDS Study, a project tracking the mothers of nearly 4,000 children. Each mother was required to describe their children’s media at various age intervals – 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36 months. In addition, they were also asked to submit the same information when their children were 7 and 8 years old. 

It should be noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued guidelines regarding children and media exposure. For starters, all digital media exposure should be avoided for children under the age of 18 months. Infants aged 18 to 24 months should only be slowly introduced to all forms of digital media, while children aged two to five years old should view no more than an hour’s worth of screen time.

What the Data Says

When reviewing the data collected by Upstate KIDS Study, the authors found that nearly nine in ten (87%) children viewed more digital media than recommended. There was some good news, however; children aged 7 and 8 were found to be watching under 90 minutes of digital media daily. 

At age 12, the average child watched 53 minutes of digital media per day. By age 15, this figure increased to over 150 minutes. At the age of 8, the highest levels of digital media consumption were found amongst children raised primarily in home environments, or to those born to first-time mothers. 

The study’s lead author, Edwina Yeung, Ph.D., stated that the study shows the reach of digital media among small children, though parents can take steps to curb media exposure. “Our results indicate that screen habits begin early. This finding suggests that interventions to reduce screen time could have a better chance of success if introduced early,” stated Yeung.

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